Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A new year is born

My dear friends;

We are now a week past the winter solstice, and a week farther into the birth of the new year. The days are, once again, growing longer, and the darkness is slowly, slowly, fading.

I ride tonight, with the dogs, so it is not really a ride for me - altho I do get a bit of exercise. The dogs, on the other hand, get a pretty good workout. Klinger is younger, Sara the elder, but Sara loves to run; which helps to equalize the effort. But, Sara is also far shorter than Klinger. Klinger has the body of the German Short-haired pointer that was almost certainly one parent. This means he has a deep chest (space for the lungs), combined with long legs, and a relatively light build. All of which, added to the youthful vigor, mean lots of energy for running.

He definitely has the hunting genes. If I had started training him for it when he was 6-10 months old, he would have gotten the pointing thing going. He did that alert freeze status quite naturally, but we encouraged him to chase the squirrels at the bird feeder, and eventually his instinct to take a point broke. Ever since, I've had to worry about training him NOT to chase wildlife when we are out walking or running.

His training is proceeding quite well, and he exhibits a great deal of control when he knows I'm paying attention. All of which is good, you know. Can't have him jetting about, scaring people, or being rude by going on land where he isn't wanted. Or running in front of cars. Etc.

He's not a huge dog - he's probably 65 pounds now, but he has a large enough look that he makes people cautious when he gets excited. Let's take a look at him for a second - German short-haired pointers and Labs are about the same height. Klinger has a blond Lab's coloration, and we've speculated that the "other" parent was a Lab. Of the two breeds, though, Labs are broader in the chest, and generally heavier in build. Klinger has the lighter build, with the Lab color.

Sara is also true to her roots. I believe that her parents were a Bassett hound, and a blue-tick hound. She has some blue-tick coloration, with a modified Bassett conformation. Meaning she looks like an oversized beagle. Given that neither breed - Bassetts or blue-ticks - are known for being trainable (rather they are known for NOT being trainable), she fits that expectation to a T. She is no more trainable than a stump. She is NOT dumb - she is actually quite smart, and I would guess she is smarter than Klinger. But, she will not train, unless you offer food as a reward, and if she thinks something else is important or interesting, fuggedaboudit. She likes food, sniffing, running, and food, in that order. She is a sweet dog, but does have a tendency to go Alpha at times.

So, when I take them out running, Sara has to go on lead. She will drag me, and the bike, just as fast as I can go to keep up (on this city bike), but only for the first half mile. Then she still will run, but only keeps up, for the next half mile. After that, she would rather walk and sniff, and riding with her is a PIA. Klinger could run flat-out for at least 3 miles, and if we worked it, surely farther. But, we don't get that chance. After the first mile I am stopping, walking, encouraging Sara to run, and sometimes succeeding.

I'm on my city-bike, a mountain bike with comfort refinements, but also much heavier, and with different gearing than a road bike. This means that I do actually get some exercise, just from powering this heavier machine up to speed quickly, to keep up with the dogs, or to get over a little rise in the road.

So the three of us are out there, running along. What a sight we must be! We left the house about ten or fifteen minutes before sundown. We make our way along, me watching for icy spots, the dogs watching for critters or smells to get excited about.

It is a fine evening. We are riding an out-and-back, all on the same road, out and then back on the same route. With the snow and ice, it is difficult to vary this. About a third of the way out, we are facing into the sun as it sinks below the tree line. I'm glad when it finally goes below the trees, since it is quite blinding, being directly in my eyes, but this also means it will be getting colder.

Colder - well, that is relative, isn't it? But today is the perhaps the first truly cold day of this winter. We are down to about 15' Fahrenheit (-9 or 10 C); which is about where I start saying it is really and truly cold. Alone, that temp is not that bad, but we also have 20-30 mph (32-45 Kph) winds. This puts the wind chill at somewhere below 0' F (-17 C). So, I'm actually somewhat worried about frostbite. We're in the range it could happen - ears, nose, cheeks. Fingers and toes could be a consideration - if we aren't properly covered.

Of course, the dogs don't seem to be bothered in the least. But, they do have nice fur coats, and they are getting good exercise. I yell at Sara to keep running, when she wants to stop and sniff, and sniff, and sniff. I'm getting badly chilled, because I am dressed for staying warm with exercise, and I'm not getting the exercise! My fingers are getting cold, stiff, and numb.

The moon has risen already. It is not full, but it is close. It will be clear tonight, and the moonlight is bright.

After we are home, and the dogs have had dinner, they are eager to go outside, into the fenced backyard. They immediately start barking. I grab my flashlight, and shining it across the street, I see why they are excited, as a fox is trotting across the field there. He is quickly gone, and the dogs are just as quickly quiet, although they look hopefully for another sighting of what they must consider to be "exciting"!

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